The SHAPE CODING system
The SHAPE CODINGTM system was designed by Speech & Language Therapist Dr Susan Ebbels at Moor House School & College to teach spoken and written grammar to school-aged children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). It is now widely used across the UK and indeed worldwide.
It was designed primarily for school-aged children and young people with language disorders but has also been used with younger children, children with hearing impairment, children with Down syndrome and adults with acquired aphasia.
The SHAPE CODINGTM system uses a visual coding system to show the rules for how words are put together in sentences, to develop the child’s understanding and use of grammar, so that they can communicate more effectively.
The primary focus is on oral language, but it can also be used to develop written language.
The SHAPE CODINGTM system includes use of shapes (syntactic structures), colours (parts of speech) and arrows (tense and aspect). It aims to be able to represent most aspects of English grammar and thus is flexible enough to be used from the very early word combinations to complex structures.
For information about training, resources and intervention research on the SHAPE CODINGTM system, please see below.
The Moor House Research and Training Institute offers three accredited courses in the SHAPE CODINGTM system for Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) and those working within Education, which aim to improve professionals’ understanding of English grammar, the SHAPE CODINGTM system and its practical use within education:
- Part 1 - the essentials of the SHAPE CODINGTM system
- Practical Applications - ideas for how to incorporate the essentials into teaching and therapy
- Part 2 - advanced structures
Please visit our training page for more information.
- The SHAPE CODINGTM App is designed for teachers and speech and language therapists to use with children and young people who are have difficulties producing and understanding English sentence structure and grammar.
- The SHAPE CODINGTM CD is available to purchase, containing many useful resources for therapy sessions.
For a written introduction to the SHAPE CODINGTM system see: Ebbels, S.H. (2007). Teaching grammar to school-aged children with Specific Language Impairment using Shape Coding. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 23, 67-93. Link. Accepted version with update notes.
Click for evidence of effectiveness of the SHAPE CODINGTM system
The findings of studies investigating the effectiveness of the SHAPE CODINGTM system have been published in peer-reviewed journals and references are listed below.
Calder, S. D., Claessen, M., Ebbels, S., & Leitão, S. (2021). The Efficacy of an Explicit Intervention Approach to Improve Past Tense Marking for Early School-Age Children With Developmental Language Disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 64(1), 91-104. doi:10.1044/2020_JSLHR-20-00132 Link Accepted version
Balthazar, C. H., Ebbels, S., & Zwitserlood, R. (2020). Explicit Grammatical Intervention for Developmental Language Disorder: Three Approaches. Language, speech, and hearing services in schools, 51(2), 226-246. doi:doi:10.1044/2019_LSHSS-19-00046 Link
Calder, S. D., Claessen, M., Ebbels, S., & Leitão, S. (2020). Explicit Grammar Intervention in Young School-Aged Children With Developmental Language Disorder: An Efficacy Study Using Single-Case Experimental Design. Language, speech, and hearing services in schools, 51(2), 298-316. doi:doi:10.1044/2019_LSHSS-19-00060 Link Accepted version
Calder, S. D., Claessen, M., & Leitão, S. (2018) Combining implicit and explicit intervention approaches to target grammar in young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 34 (2): 171-189. doi:10.1177/0265659017735392 Link
Ebbels, S. H., Maric, M., Murphy, A., & Turner, G. (2014). Improving comprehension in adolescents with severe receptive language impairments: a randomised control trial of intervention for coordinating conjunctions. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 49: 30-48. Link
Ebbels, S.H., van der Lely, H.K.J., and Dockrell, J.E. (2007). Intervention for verb argument structure in children with persistent SLI: a randomized control trial. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 50, 1330-1349. Link
Ebbels, S.H. (2007). Teaching grammar to school-aged children with Specific Language Impairment using Shape Coding. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 23, 67-93. Link. Accepted version with update notes. Vodcast.
Ebbels, S. and van der Lely, H. (2001). Meta-syntactic therapy using visual coding for children with severe persistent SLI. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders 36 (supplement), 345-350. Link
Kulkarni, A., Pring, T. & Ebbels, S.H. (2014). Evaluating the effectiveness of therapy based around Shape Coding to develop the use of regular past tense morphemes in two children with language impairments. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 30: 245-254. Link. Accepted version
Newton, C., Kirby, P., & Bruce, C. (2017). Getting into shape: the effect of Shape Coding on the spoken language production of two men with chronic aphasia. Aphasiology, 1-23. doi:10.1080/02687038.2017.1306639. Link
Springle, A., & Hester, P. (2019, in press). A comparison of visual- and movement-based grammar interventions for school-age children with language impairment. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups. doi:10.23641/asha.9454127
Tobin, L. M., & Ebbels, S. H. (2019). Effectiveness of intervention with visual templates targeting tense and plural agreement in copula and auxiliary structures in school-aged children with complex needs: a pilot study. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 33(1-2), 175-190. doi:10.1080/02699206.2018.1501608 Link, accepted version
Click here to view slides from the above video
The SHAPE CODINGTM system is a UK Registered Trade Mark under number 3284600, and the SHAPE CODINGTM system logo is a UK Registered Trade Mark under number 3261873